The ‘democratically-charged’ Turks have definitely made history by overtly thwarting a military coup attempt in Turkey in an unprecedented and rather incredible manner last Friday. No sooner a video statement made by the beleaguered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urging people to resist military uprising, was aired on a local TV channel that thousands of people poured into the streets in Ankara and Istanbul. Thus the courageous Turkish people reached an important milestone overnight by successfully foiling a bloody coup attempt for the first time in country’s history. The privately-owned TV channels and social media, which have been irking President Erdogan in the past, proved to be a ‘blessing in disguise’ in his hour of need. The death toll from the failed coup has risen to more than 290. Finally getting a ‘God-gifted’ opportunity to ‘cleanse’ the security forces, the Erdogan-led Turkish government is set to extract a heavy price from the perpetrators of the coup.

Last week in Turkey, there has been an iconic manifestation of the very political doctrine of ‘popular sovereignty’- a doctrine which essentially maintains that the authority of a state and its government is always determined, created and sustained by the consent of its people, through their elected representatives, who alone are the source of all political power in a polity. We have seen that the gunship helicopters, tanks and armed military personnel couldn’t defeat the democratic aspirations of the people. Somehow refuting Mao Zedong’s famous statement that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”, the populace in Turkey has showed it is ‘will of the people’ that matters and eventually makes a difference. Certainly, the recent failed coup attempt in Turkey contains a lot of lessons for both the civilian leaders and military commanders throughout the world.

Although only a section of the military actively participated in the failed coup in Turkey, nevertheless it was by all means a full-fledged military coup. In fact, the entire military strength is not always required to topple a political government in any country. Instead, the junta is generally supposed to control the primary nerves of the state in a capital city. In Pakistan, we know that whenever the military establishment decides to topple a political regime, only a well-known Islamabad-based army brigade moves to take control of important state building and a state-run TV station in Islamabad.

At initial stage, the coup plotters tried to take control of Turkey’s two strategically important cites– Ankara and Istanbul. In 1960, the first coup in Turkey was also staged by only a group of 38 young Turkish military officers to depose Prime Minister Adnan Madres. With a definite chain of command, the Turkish military is an organised and disciplined armed force. It also has an extensive intelligence capacity. Therefore, it can’t be believed that Turkey’s higher military command was completely unconcerned or unaware of the recent extra-constitutional military manoeuvring in Ankara and Istanbul. The immediate removal of the Turkish Chief of Staff and subsequent arrest of a number of senior military officers establish this fact.

Apparently the recent military coup in Turkey was an ill-conceived plan. The coup plotters miserably failed to anticipate the possible resistance on the part of Turks. They misjudged the popularity and political relevance of President Erdogan. They miscalculated the presence and mobilisation of the ruling AKP party at the grass-roots level. They could also not assess the impact and strength of the vibrant electronic and social media in Turkey. They only moved to overthrow a political regime in a traditional fashion by trying to take control of important state buildings and state-run TV stations in Ankara and Istanbul. Obviously the 1980’s-styled modus operandi couldn’t work in 2016.

Turkey has a long and chequered history of troubled civil-military relations. Turkish top military commanders have been known for their Bonapartist tendencies. These sorts of tendencies were at their best during the period between 1960 and 1980 when the Turkish military thrice overthrew the democratically elected regimes in the country. In fact, in addition to the geographical boundaries of Turkey, the Turkish military has acted as the guardian of country’s ideological boundaries too. Therefore, being the custodian of ‘Kemalism’- the founding ideology of the Republic of Turkey, the Turkish military has proactively intervened many times in the name of protecting the secular and liberal ethos set forth by republic’s founding father.

Accusing Fethullah Gulen, a self-exiled Turkish Islamist leader in the US, of orchestrating the recent failed coup, the Turkish government has demanded his extradition. Logically, an ailing and aging cleric, while staying abroad, can hardy plan such an organised military coup in Turkey. Obviously there could be some internal and external factors behind the coup. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the three-time prime minister and the incumbent president of the republic, is being viewed as the most powerful and popular leader in Turkey after Kemal Ataturk. Some people also see him as an authoritarian leader who hardly tolerates dissent and criticism. Therefore, an institutional conflict between the authoritarian civilian regime and the all-powerful military in Turkey is quite natural. Besides this, the perceived Islamist agenda of President Erdogan could be another reason since the military considers itself the custodian of Turkey’s secular legacy.

A number of individuals in Turkey, including some government ministers, have pointed finger at the US government and its state agencies for planning the recent military coup. However, the Washington has strongly rejected these allegations. In fact, the boarder strategic interests of the US don’t warrant the presence of any assertive, authoritarian and popular leader in the Middle East. Therefore, the US first removed the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The so-called Arab Spring overthrew the anti-US autocratic rules of Muammar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak and Zine El Abidine. Later, the pro-US Egyptian General Sisi toppled the government of President Morsi in Egypt.

Having foiled the coup attempt, Turkey’s civilian government has launched a massive crackdown against the coup plotters and perpetrators. Presently the perceived anti-democratic forces are facing a fierce ‘democratic wrath’ in the country. So far, thousands of military and police personnel have been arrested and detained. More than 2700 judges have been removed. As many as 103 senior generals and admirals have been detained. The ruling party also seriously considering to reinstate the death penalty to harshly punish the coup plotters. However, the world leaders have also warned the president Erdogan not to use the attempted coup as ‘Carte Blanche’ to do whatever he wants to consolidate his rule in Turkey.

Although the Turkish government has successfully foiled a military coup, yet it is not out of woods. Any sort of harsh arbitrary measure on the part of government would be quite detrimental to the multicultural and multi-ethnic Turkish society. Similarly, the instant dismissal and arrest of such a large number of senior military officers may also render the Turkish armed forces ineffective or dysfunctional.

Presently Turkey is facing a number of grave internal and external challenges. A violent terror wave has visited the country only some days ago. Its immediate neighbouring country Syria continues to be volatile and destabilised. The provisional truce between the Turkey and Kurdish rebels is already over. Both the ISIS and PKK militants are equally disturbing the republic. In this situation, Turkey can hardly afford to weaken or demoralise its armed forces.

Focusing on the well-being of common people, President Erdogan should actively endeavour to enforce his intended reforms agenda in the country. Obviously the people are the sole and ultimate defenders of his political rule as well as the democratic character of the republic.